By Kay Miller Temple
The self-storage industry is no exception to every modern business whose management software is changing to embrace SMAC: social media, mobile applications, analytics and cloud. Software improvements don't just add to the bottom line for facility owners, they provide employees with a streamlined workflow and tenants with a customer-focused rental experience. In this article, you'll get insight to recent innovations in industry management software and how you can use it to improve your business.
From its present relationship of mutual respect, business software and social media could evolve into a more integrated partnership. For now, social media's role in day-to-day business operation makes for an important conversation where potential software interfaces are concerned.
Business websites should be connected to Facebook and other social media tools, according to Chris Pennington, marketing manager at SMD Software Inc., the provider of Sitelink management software. But he cautions that unless storage operators are making regular, authentic and relevant posts, results may be lacking. "Rebranding or retargeting is often more powerful than a social media presence," he says.
Social media and branding on the Internet is a "must," according to Shaina Cossairt, business development consultant for QuikStor Security & Software, another provider of software for the self-storage industry. Facility owners should discuss search engine optimization (SEO), websites and social media with their vendors, she says, to understand how software can be “the hub” of their modern marketing campaigns.
"There was a time when having a simple ad in the Yellow Pages was all a self-storage facility required for its marketing campaign," she says. "Wow, have times changed! Social media and branding yourself on the Internet is a must to compete nowadays."
Software companies are also embracing the mobile movement by adding applications for self-storage businesses and their customers. Apps that provide real-time information and connect simultaneously with other facilities offer convenience, says Mark Smith, senior vice president of product strategy for Centershift Inc., a company that designs applications to integrate websites, call centers and smartphones.
Some apps enable managers to pass a self-storage unit and instantly know its status. Details can also be noted in the app and recorded for follow-up.
Mobile apps also provide convenience for tenants, says Paul Darden, president of District Manager, a provider of self-storage management software. For example, customers with smartphones can receive texts about upcoming or delinquent payments. "They can then immediately make payments right from their phones," Darden says.
Websites that are deemed mobile-responsive allow a self-storage business to be found more easily online and for rentals to happen immediately. "Fewer and fewer reservations are being made by traditional PC users," Smith says.
Management software programs that incorporate revenue-management tools are a necessity in today’s competitive environment. In addition, the software should allow data analysis of unit rates and availability so operators can better manage their rental income. "When occupancy is high, rates should be increased; and when they are low, rates should be decreased," Pennington says. "Either way, income benefits from higher rates or higher occupancy."
Operators who manage several sites face another challenge: keeping pace with what’s happening at each site. Software programs that include easy-to-read infographics are one way to show the performance at multiple sites, according to Ramona Taylor, president of Space Control Systems Inc., a company that offers programs for rental-counter and customer management.